Recently I was asked by a friend, “what are the things that I must do while in New Orleans?” “Well, laissez les bon temps rouler, of course,” (let the good times roll) I replied I mean, there are so many things to do in New Orleans that you could stay busy in this city forever!
New Orleans, also known as The Big Easy, is most famous for its annual Mardi Gras festival, but I will tell you that there is so much more to New Orleans and the French Quarter than just this once-a-year event.
If New Orleans isn’t on your bucket list, go add it now!
New Orleans has something to appeal to everyone. I mean, there are so many great attractions and outdoor activities in New Orleans!
History lovers have good reason to visit as they can check out the New Orleans Plantations or participate in a French Quarter walking tour, while foodies can chow down on all of the incredible New Orleans food, and photographers find themselves surrounded by outdoor activities and Instagramable places in New Orleans.
I mean, there is definitely a reason that New Orleans made the Top 18 Places to Visit by CNN. We love visiting New Orleans and find ourselves there several times a year being immersed in the Cajun culture.
This North America hot spot is easy to fall in love with as there is no other place in the entire world that is as much fun as New Orleans!
So it doesn’t matter if it is your first visit to New Orleans, or your 100th time, you are sure to love the unique culture of the city!
That’s why we made this list of the Things to do in New Orleans! No matter what your taste, we have you covered in this post so keep reading!
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Things to Do In New Orleans
Explore the French Quarter
New Orleans’ French Quarter, also referred to as the vieux carre, is the historic epicenter of the city and one of the top attractions in New Orleans.
It is here that you will see and feel the city come alive.
The streets are lined with gorgeous architecture, cast-iron balconies, and exuberant street life, all of which define the culture of this city.
As New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter is the perfect area to explore if you are a history lover.
One of the best things to do in the French Quarter is to grab a to-go cocktail and start walking around to discover all that the city of New Orleans has to offer.
You will find that so many of our things to do and some great outdoor activities in New Orleans are centered around this area.
This area will definitely be on your list of things to do in New Orleans!
Check Out the Art and Antiques On Royal Street
Be sure to visit Royal Street and explore one of the oldest streets in New Orleans. Start out at Canal Street and follow Royal through the heart of the New Orleans French Quarter taking in the fabulous architecture and the street performers as you continue walking.
Royal Street is a great place to explore the amazing architecture and the many art galleries and antique shops that New Orleans is famous for.
We love that they showcase local artists, so be sure to pop into as many as you can and show your support!
One of our favorite New Orleans art galleries is Studio Be, be sure to check it out.
One of the great things about Royal Street is the architecture, so be sure to look up and all around while you are walking it!
There are also numerous thrift stores, restaurants, courtyards, and cafes that call Royal home.
Be on the lookout as there is generally a New Orleans brass band playing along Royal Street as well.
Browsing Royal Street is one of our favorite things to do in New Orleans for sure!
Grab the Perfect Picture of Jackson Square
One of New Orleans’ most recognizable and historic landmarks, Jackson Square will definitely be on your list of things to do in New Orleans.
This New Orleans park, which is also a National Historic Landmark, is located in the center of the city, close to the Mississippi River.
Today people flock to Jackson Square to take the perfect New Orleans selfie in front of the iconic square and the St. Louis Cathedral which majestically stands behind it.
Of course, and to see the larger than life statue of Andrew Jackson.
Artists display their work all along the fence around Jackson Square while street performers can be found performing on the sidewalks nearby as well. Walking around the square truly is a very entertaining area and a must do during your time in New Orleans!
All around Jackson Square you will notice the carriages waiting to take tourist on a carriage ride of the city as well. If you are interested in this as a way to see the French Quarter, just go up and ask one of the drivers. They will quote you a price and a time for their tour.
You will quickly see why this is one of the top free attractions in New Orleans and one of the best things to do in New Orleans.
Shop and Eat at the French Market
What started as a Native American trading post along the Mississippi River is now a cool, open-air market and one of the top attractions in the city of New Orleans.
You will find a wide variety of goods at the historic French Market ranging from seasonal vegetables to New Orleans Mardi Gras beads and fresh oysters.
The French Market is a cool experience and well worth walking through during your time in the French Quarter.
This is one of the fun outdoor activities and one of the interesting things to do in New Orleans.
Party and People Watch on Bourbon Street
No visit to New Orleans would be complete without a visit to the famous Bourbon Street. Now, I know that this might not be for everyone.
New Orleans’ Bourbon Street is gritty, to say the least.
Walking up and down the street, you will notice that it is lined with bars. It is crowded. It is loud.
If you don’t mind that, then grab a drink, listen to some live music, and go join the party.
I mean, Bourbon is definitely full of life and an iconic street in New Orleans! It is one of the top attractions and one of the fun outdoor activities in New Orleans for a reason.
Be sure and add this to your list of things to do in New Orleans.
Take a Tour of the French Quarter
New Orleans is a city full of intrigue, history, and culture, especially the French Quarter. Taking one of the many tours walking offered is a perfect way to discover the French Quarter of New Orleans.
We loved this New Orleans Ghost Tour–We love booking “ghost” walking tours in historic cities. During these tours, you learn so much history, and in New Orleans, you start to understand why New Orleans considered one of the most haunted and historic cities in the world!
A good one in New Orleans is this afternoon food and history tour.
We were not only introduced to some great New Orleans restaurants, but we also had a fun time making new friends and learning so much about New Orleans.
I mean, they even explain the history of buildings that we had passed a hundred times, like the Tennessee Williams house!
French Quarter Walking Tours are one of the top attractions and one of the fun outdoor activities in New Orleans.
Recommended New Orleans French Quarter Tours
Take a Cemetery Tour in New Orleans
I know, you are probably thinking I am crazy, but stay with me on this one. The city of New Orleans has fascinating historic cemeteries!
Take a New Orleans Walking Cemetery Tour into St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 to hear stories of the infamous Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau. You will have the opportunity to see her final resting place as well many other haunting stories from the city of the dead.
Please note, you must be with a certified tour guide to visit St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, so be sure and book a tour if this is on your list of things to do in New Orleans.
Take a Plantation Tour From New Orleans
There are numerous historic plantations surrounding New Orleans. Consider going to Oak Alley Plantation, Houma’s House, or Whitney Plantation.
If you would like to put this on your list of things to do in New Orleans, there are several tour companies that will pick you up and do all of the driving for you and some that combine tours like this Oak Alley Plantation and Swamp Boat Tour or this Plantation Brunch and Swamp Tour.
Tour the New Orleans Garden District
The New Orleans Garden District is like stepping back in time and is definitely different than being in the French Quarter. Learn all about the Garden District when you do this Garden District Walking Tour.
I love strolling through the Crescent City’s Garden District dreaming of which mansion I would choose if I won the lottery (really, that is the only way I could live in the New Orleans Garden District). LOL!
Shop and Dine on Magazine Street
During your time in the Garden District, be sure to check out all of the fun shops and restaurants on Magazine Street.
While Magazine Street stretches six miles from Canal Street to Audubon Park, it is the section in the New Orleans Garden District that we love to visit.
Here you will find the “Greetings from New Orleans” mural, the “press for champagne” button, and so many more fun, Instagrammable places.
Of course, there are also loads of fun and quirky shops to pop into.
During your time on Magazine Street, don’t miss the opportunity to eat at District Donuts, Gris Gris, or Joey K’s.
Go On a Swamp Tour
You have to visit the Louisiana swamp at least once during your time in New Orleans, so take a day trip and head out of the city on an adventure and one of the fabulous outdoor activities like this New Orleans Alligator Tour.
A New Orleans swamp tour is a fun way to experience the naturally wild side of New Orleans and is one of the top attractions in New Orleans.
You can choose a calm tour on a barge or an adrenaline-rushing swamp airboat tour, the choice is yours! You can read all about our New Orleans gator tour here.
Take a New Orleans Food or Cocktail Tour
Why not get a nice sampling of the local cuisine from the experts? Taking a New Orleans food tour is a great way to do just that.
Allow the New Orleans locals to introduce you to all of their favorite bars and restaurants when you take a Cajun food or cocktail tour in the city!
During a recent tour, we were introduced to several restaurants that were started by Hurricane Katrina survivors. Knowing that we were helping the to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina felt so good!
Taking a New Orleans food or cocktail tour is one of our favorite things to do in New Orleans and a great way to learn about the best happy hour specials in town also!
Take in the New Orleans Music Scene
New Orleans is a city known to be a music lover’s paradise. If it is great music you crave, then you are in the right city.
For this, head where the locals do, straight to Frenchmen Street.
Music seems to pour out of every doorway on New Orleans’ Frenchmen Street. Clubs line the street, ranging from jazz clubs to blues to rock and reggae.
You can spend the evening popping in and out of the clubs enjoying all of the live music that Frenchmen has to offer.
Of course, you have to include some live jazz in your music mix, and there is no better place to do that in New Orleans than the historic Preservation Hall.
For a true historic jazz experience, you can’t miss Preservation Hall. Just be sure to visit their website to see get all the details to plan your visit.
One of the best ways to get associated with the music scene is to take a New Orleans music tour.
There are also some cool New Orleans music tours if you are interested as well. Honestly, checking out some live music is one of the best things to do in New Orleans.
Visit a New Orleans Museum
The city of New Orleans is home to some amazing museums, including the National WWII Museum. Why not check them out while you’re in the area.
The National WWII Museum is located in the Central Business District of New Orleans. Inside the National WWII Museum, visitors are treated to an expansive collection of artifacts and immersive displays outlining the events of World War II. The National WWII Museum is one of the top attractions in New Orleans and one of the top museums in the country!
The Cabildo is the Spanish building sitting next to the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. Inside the Cabildo you will find the Louisiana State Museum, and an awesome tribute to Louisiana and New Orleans history.
I’m not sure if Mardi Gras World qualifies as a museum or not, but it is definitely a cool place to visit! Mardi Gras World takes visitors behind the scenes to teach you all about the history of Mardi Gras including seeing the workshop where the beautiful floats are created!
The New Orleans Museum of Art is another fabulous museum in New Orleans. As the oldest fine arts museum in the city, the New Orleans Museum of Art houses a permanent collection of over 40,000 pieces. In addition, they also host rotating exhibits throughout the year.
Don’t miss out on the New Orleans Jazz Museum during your visit. Located in the former New Orleans mint building, this museum is a fun and unique experience for music and architecture lovers. In addition to the awesome exhibits housed here, the museum also hosts several events throughout the year! Check their website for complete details.
Check Out the New Orleans Audubon Zoo
The New Orleans Audubon Zoo is located in the historic Uptown area of the city and is one of the fun outdoor activities in New Orleans.
The Audubon Nature Institute manages the zoo, the Audubon Aquarium, the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, and Audubon Park, so you know you are in for a treat when you visit!
During your visit to the zoo, you have the opportunity to see so many great animal species. Some of our favorites include the Asian elephants, the giraffes, and the tigers!
Of course, the zoo offers has several natural habitat areas to explore and also offers numerous opportunities to engage with the animals through live presentations.
Explore the Historic New Orleans Collections
The Historic New Orleans Collection is a research center and museum right in the heart of the French Quarter.
Their dedication to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans is apparent and can be explored by visiting their fun and unique museum.
The collection consists of several historic structures spread throughout New Orleans that are open for visitors to enjoy.
On of my favorites, the Williams Residence, is a two story Italianate townhouse built in the late 1800s. The meticulously restored home showcases what life was like in New Orleans during this time period.
The best part about visiting the Historic New Orleans Collection is that it is absolutely free!
Enjoy the New Orleans River Walk
The New Orleans River Walk area is about 1.3 miles located along the Mississippi.
People use the New Orleans River Walk area to enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities.
Here you can walk, jog, rollerblade, or just relax along the banks of the Mississippi. There is also a sculpture garden area and a River Walk Mall.
This area is a fun little outdoor oasis in the city and is one of the free things to do in New Orleans!
Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans
Just north of the Vieux Carré, in the Tremme neighborhood, is Louis Armstrong Park, one of the great places to enjoy some outdoor activities in New Orleans.
This 32-acre park is not only quiet respite from the city, but it is also full of American History.
Inside the park, you will find a duck pond, lots of green space for relaxing, table games, and some nice statues and bridges.
Music lovers will love seeing the statues of Louis Armstrong!
There is also a Historical Landmark inside of Louis Armstrong Park, Congo Square. The square took its name from the West African people who would gather there on Sunday to beat drums, sell homemade goods, and celebrate.
Today, the park hosts numerous events throughout the year, including Martin Luther King Day Celebrations, festivals, concerts, and more.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Located along the New Orleans River Walk is the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, home to over 500 species of animals, this aquarium is a treat for sure!
The Audubon Aquarium has numerous exhibits for you to explore.
Check out the Amazon exhibit to see anaconda, piranhas, and freshwater stingrays before heading to the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico exhibit to see some of the local aquatic animals showcased.
You won’t want to miss the 30-foot tunnel that surrounds you with aquatic animals in their Caribbean reef exhibit during your visit. I could truly sit and enjoy this experience all day.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park
The Jean Lafitte National Historical Park is located right in the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans on Decatur Street.
This National Historical Park is where you can learn all about the history of the city, see historical artifacts, and even participate in guided walking tours.
Stepping into their serene courtyard is a nice, relaxing place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets for a few moments also!
Visit Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
Built in between 1722 and 1732, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar is one of the oldest bars in New Orleans.
Famous for the pirate brothers that owned it, Jean Lafitte and his brother Pierre, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop was said to have been a blacksmith shop originally. Although, it was highly doubtful that it was really a blacksmith shop. Instead, it was a cover for the pirate brothers to operate their underground dealings.
The building you see in New Orleans today survived both of the big fires of the city, in 1788 and 1794, so it has definite historical significance.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar is a fun, quirky place to grab a drink, especially at night!
Ride a New Orleans Street Car
Another one of the top things to do in New Orleans is to ride a street car.
The New Orleans street cars can be seen running up and down Canal Street and make for a cheap way to get around town.
Take a St. Charles Avenue street car through the Warehouse District and into the Garden District, or hop on a street car headed to city park, the choice is yours!
The street cars are a great way to see the city as well, so add it to your list of things to do in New Orleans!
River Cruise on a Steamboat
Enjoy a river cruise on a steamboat while you are in New Orleans aboard one of the many riverboats that call this area home. There are several options of steamboat cruises to choose from include historic hour-long cruises to fancy jazz dinner cruises.
Taking a steamboat cruise is a great way to see the city from a completely different perspective.
No matter which cruise you choose while visiting the Big Easy, this is definitely a unique experience that you are sure to enjoy!
Watch a Parade or Attend a Festival In New Orleans
Of course, New Orleans’s most famous celebration is Mardi Gras! Mardi Gras season is held annually and is associated with the Carnival season which always begins on King’s Day, which is January 6. Mardi Gras Day (Fat Tuesday) varies because Easter Sunday varies.
Mardi Gras Day is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, so if you want to enjoy the Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, come during this time! This is one of the top attractions in New Orleans, so plan well in advance!
Honestly, though, New Orleans is always looking for a reason to party! There are constantly festivals and parades taking place in the New Orleans area.
On our most recent trip to New Orleans, we had the opportunity to see the Chris Owens Annual Easter Parade. We feel that this is the best time to visit the city if you want to experience a fun, but calm parade.
Another cool festival is the San Fermin in Nueva Orleans festival. This is the running of the bulls New Orleans style!
Check out a listing of New Orleans festivals here. These are some of our favorite things to do in New Orleans and our outdoor activities to participate in!
Visit New Orleans City Park
A visit to New Orleans’ City Park is the perfect little escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, and one of the best places to enjoy some fun outdoor activities.
This 1,300 acre public park is approximately 50% larger than New York’s Central Park. That means that there is plenty of opportunity to find a little place all to yourself!
As the 20th-most-visited park in the United States, you have to visit New Orleans’ City Park at least once during your time in New Orleans.
The park is home to the New Orleans Botanical Garden. The New Orleans Botanical Garden houses beautiful plants, flowers, and artwork that you really have to see to believe.
City Park is also home to the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park. This portion of the park is home to 18 rides that kids and adults will love!
Speaking of kids, they will also love the splash pad and miniature golf course that is located in City Park.
Of course, there is also ample greenspace for sport enthusiasts to enjoy. When you add the 18-hole golf course on top of this, City Park truly has something for everyone.
There are so many fun things to explore in this park you could truly stay all day! It’s no wonder this is one of the top attractions in New Orleans.
This truly is a beautiful place to unwind and one of the best things to do in New Orleans if you are an outdoor lover.
During your visit to the park, don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the favorite restaurants in New Orleans, Morning Call. This popular place has some amazing beignets!
Eat, Eat, and Eat Some More
You definitely don’t want to go to New Orleans on a diet!
That is because New Orleans is a food institution. New Orleans is known for its southern cuisine and is home to many world-renowned chefs and restaurants.
Put on your elastic-waisted pants and get your taste buds ready for a southern culinary adventure while being introduced to a huge part of the culture!
There are so many amazing things to eat in New Orleans, we could dedicate a whole article (or a whole blog) just to that, so for this article, we will just share a few of our favorites restaurants.
New Orleans Beignets
Our first stop in New Orleans is usually to find beignets. I mean, honestly, one of the best things in New Orleans is a beignet!
What is a beignet?
Well you see, a beignet is a deep-fried pastry that is absolutely heavenly. Traditional beignets are dusted in powdered sugar while they are still nice and hot.
Indulge in this delectable powdered sugar topped pastry with a steaming hot cafe au lait while visiting Cafe du Monde, a popular French Quarter spot. It’s guaranteed to not disappoint.
Expert tip-Since the French Quarter Café du Monde is the perfect place to get a feel for New Orleans, the lines are long. The line at Café du Monde gets extremely long. Instead, head down to the Riverside Mall. There is a Café du Monde in there also. You get the same great beignets and coffee but will wait half the time.
Court of Two Sisters
For an amazing Jazz brunch, you have to go to the Court of Two Sisters. This New Orleans French Quarter restaurant has incredible courtyard dining and serves us an all-you-can-eat brunch accompanied by jazz music on the weekends. Their 5-star Cajun cuisine will have you camped out and never wanting to leave!
Po Boys in New Orleans
Another famous New Orleans food is the po’boy sandwich.
Grab one of our personal favorites, the muffuletta.
We loved eating a hot muffuletta from either the Napolean House or Franks, both located in the historic French Quarter. Both of these French Quarter restaurants are fun to visit. Napolean House is in a historic building with a great courtyard, while Frank’s is a family owned joint that is sure to entertain (you will see what I mean when you go).
Desire Oyster Bar
For some fabulous food right in the heart of the New Orleans action, make your way to the French Quarter’s Bourbon Street and visit Desire Oyster Bar. They are easy to find, just look for their fabulous Broadway marquis sign!
Once inside the French Quarter dining room, you are treated to a cool décor inspired by the Vieux Carre. If you love oysters, then Desire has you covered as you can pull right up to their raw oyster bar.
For dessert, we opted for the bread pudding and the Market fruit pie, both of which were amazing. We highly recommend adding Desire Oyster Bar in the Crescent City to your list of things to do in New Orleans.
Best Places to Stay in New Orleans
New Orleans is full of great places to make your home base. For a good location on Canal Street, we opt for The Sheraton or the JW Marriott, both are an easy walk into the action of the French Quarter and close to the trolley stops to access other parts of the city.
Staying down by the river is also nice, and still easy to access the French Quarter. You have marvelous views and are out of the hustle and bustle. For a riverfront hotel, go with the Hilton or Westin.
There are also loads of nice places in the New Orleans Garden District and the Marigny if you prefer to be out of the French Quarter. The Garden District is a great place to stay!
If you’re feeling adventurous, then why not consider staying in one of the haunted hotels in New Orleans?
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Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight:
We love using CheapOAir, Kayak, and Kiwi to search for the best prices on flights. We love using these search engines because they search the web for airlines all over the world to ensure you get the best deal! In addition to flights, you can also find great hotel prices on Kayak and Kiwi.
Book Your Vacation Package:
If you want to book an entire vacation package, then we suggest using Expedia. We love how easy Expedia is to use and we always find good deals on entire vacation packages on their site.
Another great site for vacation packages is BookVIP. BookVIP offers super cheap vacation packages to incredible destinations. You are sure to save money using their site!
For full guided vacations including hotels, some meals, transportation, and guides, then we book with Trafalgar. Trafalgar is a trusted tour company that will meet all of your needs while ensuring that you have a great experience.
Trip.com allows you to book flights, hotels, train tickets, rental cars, airport transfers, tours, and more all on one site. Owned by the parent company that also owns Skyscanner, this is a trusted resource for travel booking and a great “one-stop-shop.”
Book Your Accommodations:
We always begin our search by checking out the honest review on hotels at TripAdvisor. This allows us to narrow our search for specific properties once we are ready to book. Of course, you can also book directly on the TripAdvisor site as well!
There are several accommodation sites that we like to use. One of our favorites is Booking.com because it gives you a wide variety of hotels and guesthouses at a good price.
Another “go-to” hotel booking site for us is Hotels.com. We love their loyalty program that allows you to earn free nights, and their “secret prices” for members are fabulous deals!
If you are looking for a luxurious all-inclusive vacation, then consider checking out the Sandals/Beaches properties. Sandals properties are for couples only and Beaches are for families. We have visited Sandals in the past and absolutely love the attention to detail and the service they provide.
Tour Companies We Trust:
We love taking guided tours when visiting new places. Our go-to tour companies are Viator.com and Get Your Guide. Both of these companies have been in business for years and provide excellent customer service. You can trust booking tours from their sites for sure!
CityPass is a great way to save money when visiting large cities. CityPass allows you to get free admission to major attractions once you buy their pass. The savings add up quickly with this pass, often saving 50% with combined admissions.
Another great pass to save money in larger cities is the Sightseeing Pass. This pass allows you to save valuable time and money by combining admissions to major attractions. They also have a handy app that keeps everything you need at your fingertips.
Looking to Save Time and Money?
Check out our resource page for all of our favorite vendors. These companies help us to save time and money on our travels!
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About The Author
Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blogs, That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel. Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region. She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.